I've done a reading report each of the last several years here on my blog. Time for another one. I've mentioned it here before but my way of keeping records is kind of unusual so I'll quickly explain again. I keep my yearly reading records from October 14th of one year through October 13 of the next. October 14th is my birthday, so that's why I do it that way.
This was a good year for me. I read 129 books, up from 106 last year. I'm pretty sure I owe the increase to taking it a little easier at my job in the aftermath of last year's heart attack. It also seems I found a bunch of books I really liked this year and so I tore through them at a fast pace.
For the first time in quite a few years, Westerns led the parade. I read 29 of those. This is certainly due to me writing a lot of western related material this past year, including the novel The Scarred One, the short stories for Scott Harris's four 500 word anthologies, and some stories for another western collection that I plan to put together in the next year or so.
Second on my most-read list was Mystery/Thriller, with the main emphasis on the thriller side. I read 23 of these, due mostly to Harlan Coben, whose books I've been devouring at a high rate of speed. An interesting development (at least to me), is that for the first time I separated Men's Adventure from other types of Thrillers. This is because of the Men's Adventure group on Facebook, where I've been having a lot of fun talking about this kind of book. I didn't start separating these out until late in the year, however, so I only have 5 official Men's Adventure books on my list. That'll probably go up next year.
Non-fiction was next on my list, with 14. These generally fall into three categories: science books, books on writing, and books on heavy metal music. I separate these on Goodreads but not in my word processing list, which I like to keep to one page.
SF and Fantasy took slight dips this year, ending up at 9 and 10 respectively. I also read 7 classics (meaning books by folks like Hemingway etc), and 7 poetry books, both slight increases over last year. I got sent several poetry books this year from folks who know I do reviews and that's probably why that number went up a little bit.
I could go on but I may have overstayed my welcome on this post already. I do love talking about books. Here's to a great 2019-2020 reading year for everyone!
Friday, October 11, 2019
Saturday, October 05, 2019
The trees and ditches are spattered with yellow along my walk this morning. In the woods it’s mostly leaves changing into their autumn attire. There’s still a lot of green but here and there a yellow flag flutters, pale or lemony or tending toward brown. And poking through the litter of leaves and twigs on the ground are a few yellow sprigs of fern. I suspect the ferns and some of the leaves on the plants in our backyard are yellow because it’s been dry.
Yesterday we had some rain, though, and the ditches are yellow with blooming flowers. There are at least four different species, the bouquets of duller yellow that I call ragweed, tiny little yellow starbursts about the size of a pencil eraser, bigger five petalled yellow flowers, and the biggest of all, standing on stems two to four feet high, yellow-orange blooms half the size of your palm with multiple petals that make them look like sawblades.
Even the sunlight is yellow this morning. I guess it’s that kind of day. I think I’ll have a couple of eggs with yellow yokes, toast with yellow butter, and maybe some lemonade.
Thursday, August 01, 2019
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
A whale surfaces. Exhales. Foul air spumes thirty feet high. The droplets fall, winking with sunlight beneath the blue sky. The whale draws a fresh breath. It flows crisp and cool into his lungs before he slides back beneath the waves. He doesn’t dive, just lets himself slowly sink, using his flippers and fluke only for balance.
This whale is old, tired. He hasn’t eaten in a while. He wants to rest. No other whales are around. He’d been swimming with a small pod but had fallen behind. That doesn’t seem to matter.
The water is a clear and diffuse yellow here just beneath the surface. It glows warm from the sun and the whale wants to hang onto that warmth. But the effort required to do so is tremendous. He sinks a little further, his flippers stroking fitfully at the water.
Yellow light turns green, then turquoise. The water cools a little. It’s like a vast liquid gem, flawed with bubbles and whorls of current. There are no fish, no krill. He is at the center of the turbulence. Then the turbulence dies away. The green water darkens toward emerald. He sinks.
How much farther does he need to travel to reach the krill fields? Will there be anything left when he arrives? Will any of the other whales still be there? His flippers stir, then still.
He sinks a little more. The water is purple now, like twilight at the surface. But unlike at the surface, there is no wind, no roughness of waves. The ocean has a silken stillness to it. A memory comes. His first mate. Her flank brushed his, sometimes as silken as this ocean, sometimes so barnacled-rough that it scratched his flesh.
The memory passes. The ocean darkens. He drowses.
The world is black when he awakens. He drifts through a formless void. A faint pressure in his lungs lets him know that he will need to rise soon. He will have to breathe, and the surface is a long swim away now.
Then light distracts him, glittering, dancing light. He recalls youthful nights, broaching beneath a festival sky strewn with stars. A song stirs deep within but does not pass his throat. These lights are not stars; they are luminescent plankton stirred by his decent through their level. And he is not young. There is no song left.
The moment is here. He must swim now or never swim again. The surface is far away; his lungs begin to strain. Working his fluke and flippers, he begins to rise. Then he stops. The plankton have drifted away from him. He is in blackness again. Alone. The water is cold, cold.
All tension bleeds from his body. He sinks. Deeper and deeper. At some point he exhales. And the bubbles rise. In a while they will burst on the surface, and there will never be more.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
I read everything I could get my hands on as a kid, but my top three favorite genres were Science Fiction/Fantasy, Westerns, and Animal stories. My very first “favorite” book, which I read over and over and over, was Pagoo, by Holling Clancy Holling. There are no people in this tale; it’s the story of a Hermit Crab in search of a new shell.
Most of the time, there were no, or very few, people in Jim Kjelgaard’s stories. Desert Dog was a well loved book for me. It tells the tale of a Greyhound abandoned in the desert who has to learn to survive. And then there was Kalak on the Ice, a story of a mother polar bear and her cubs.
There were people in Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books, but the focus for me was always on the horse. And Farley also did the Island Stallion books, in the first of which we get to know the Island Stallion living on his own, with no people around.
Of course, there was Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London, which I also loved. But I didn’t stop reading animal stories when I “grew” up. I read The Incredible Journey and Watership Down and many others. Just recently I read Lad a Dog, and loved it.
When my son, Josh, was little, I told him many animal stories, particularly about two groups of mice called the Watermelon Mice and the Pumpkin Mice. As a writer who wants to tell the kinds of stories that I love to read, it was inevitable that I would write an animal tale or two. And finally I have.
Some fifteen years ago I started and stopped a novella called “Farhaven,” about three orphaned fox kits trying to find their way to an animal sanctuary. In 2018, I finished that story, and also wrote a tale of “The Pumpkin Mice” called “Dreamtellers.” After submitting these two tales to several agents and publishers without finding even one who wanted to take a look, I’ve decided to publish them myself, along with a couple of other children’s stories I’ve done over the years which did sell. Part of the reason for me pushing to get them out rather than spend more time trying to sell them traditionally is that I’m about to become a grandfather. And that’s a pretty important step in a man’s life. It should be commemorated in some fashion or another.
And so, I’m introducing here a book called “Farhaven &Other Stories.” This is what it looks like and it’s available in print from Amazon already. I will be putting out an ebook of it in the next few weeks, although it’s only in print at the moment. I hope you’ll take a look. And thanks for reading!
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Speculations: Poetry from the Weird Poets Society, 2018: Mind’s Eye Publications, 123 pages, Edited by Frank Coffman, Illustrated by David M. Hoenig.
The Weird Poets Society was founded in 2016 by Frank Coffman on facebook as a group for published poets in the “Weird, Horrific, Supernatural, Science Fictional, Fantastic or otherwise clearly Speculative” genres of poetry. There are nearly 200 members, including myself. I believe it was in 2018 that Frank suggested publishing a collection of work from the members, and this first work, printed in the spring of 2019, is what I’m reviewing here. Twenty-eight poets are included, most with two individual poems. Some of these poems were previously published but many are brand new to this collection. Each contributor has a little “about the poet” paragraph included as well, and it was interesting to see the wide range of experiences exhibited by the members.
The poets included are Manuel Paul Arenas, F. J. Bergman, JP Bloch, Bruce Boston, Anton Cancre, Frank Coffman, Scott J. Couturier, Harris Coverly, Don Gillette, Patricia Gomes, Charles Gramlich, David M. Hoenig, Geoffrey A. Landis, Randall D. Larson, Lisa Lepovetsky, John C. Mannone, Kurt Newton, Kimberly Nugent, Cindy O’Quinn, Michael Picco, Ken Poyner, Peter Rawlik, Brian Rosenberger, Randy D. Rubin, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, David Schembri, John W. Sexton, and Don Webb. Although I’ve heard of—and read pieces by—quite a few of these folks, the only people whose writings I’ve consumed regularly were Boston, Landis, and Salmonson. I’ve also been in an anthology with Lisa Lepovetsky and spent many years in REHupa with Frank Coffman. Some other contributors here are highly accomplished even if I haven’t crossed paths with them before. Patricia Gomes is the poet laureate of New Bedford, Massachusetts. F. J. Bergman has won numerous awards, including two Rhyslings.
It’s always a little awkward for a poet or writer to review a collection that he/she is a part of. The readers will have to decide for themselves whether that devalues my comments. My pieces here are both recent poems from me called “When Night Calls to Hearts Pledged to the Sun,” and “They Rise to a Kiss.” Each has religious element and “When Night Calls” was partially inspired by a dream.
Leaving my pieces aside, my favorite pieces were by Bruce Boston, “A Stray Grimoire,” and “Pavane for a Cyber-Princess,” the latter of which I had read previously and which definitely fits the character of an ‘epic’ poem to me. I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Boston’s work over the years and have reviewed most of his poetry collections already. Boston’s list of accomplishments is a long one and his reputation in speculative poetry is well deserved. It’s quite a pleasure for me to final share a TOC with him.
I will say I felt quite comfortable and pleasantly happy with being included in this collection. There’s a range of styles, from free verse, to haiku, to formally structured traditional forms. We have the complexity of Coffman’s “Residual Murder” mixed with the deceptive simplicity of Kimberly Nugent’s “A White House.” There are playful, almost limerick-like pieces such as Salmonson’s “Bag,” and the formal power of Landis’s “The Price of Magic: Illusion’s Lure.” Nothing here felt forced or as if it didn’t belong. The language was fresh throughout and highly visual. There are no “clunkers.”
I’ll mention two other poets here whose pieces, back to back in the collection, particularly captured me while reading. These were John C. Mannone, with “Cycles,” with phrases such as “sackclothed moon” and “like Icarus with melted wings,” and the excellent “At the Mountain of Dreams” by Kurt Newton, which had such a nice melodic flow to it that I’ve already reread it several times now.
Top the poetry off with some dynamite illustrations by David M. Hoenig, and you have a really fine package that I am most pleased to be a part of. If you'd like to purchase a copy, the link is here: